|Publication number||US7689435 B2|
|Application number||US 09/951,026|
|Publication date||30 Mar 2010|
|Priority date||11 Sep 2001|
|Also published as||US20030050881|
|Publication number||09951026, 951026, US 7689435 B2, US 7689435B2, US-B2-7689435, US7689435 B2, US7689435B2|
|Inventors||Mitchell Adam Cohen, Titania Mary Gupta, Laurent David Hasson, John Scott Houston, Jianren Li, Rakesh Mohan, Jakka Sairamesh, Josef Schiefer, Revathi Subramanian|
|Original Assignee||International Business Machines Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (20), Non-Patent Citations (29), Referenced by (2), Classifications (25), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention is related to United States Patent Application entitled “Method and Apparatus for Automatic Transitioning Between States in a State Machine That Manages a Business Process,” Ser. No. 09/951,028 United States Patent Application entitled “Method and Apparatus for Managing The Versioning of Business Objects Using a State Machine,” Ser. No. 09/951,027 United States Patent Application entitled “Method and Apparatus for Monitoring Execution of a Business Process Managed Using a State Machine,” Ser. No. 09/951,025 United States Patent Application entitled “Method and Apparatus for Managing and Displaying User Authorizations for a Business Process Managed Using a State Machine,” Ser. No. 09/951,024 and United States Patent Application entitled “Method and Apparatus for Managing a User Group List For a Business Process Managed Using a State Machine,” Ser. No. 09/951,029, filed contemporaneously herewith, assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated by reference herein.
The present invention relates generally to techniques for representing business processes as state machines, and more particularly, to a method and apparatus for creating and managing complex business processes.
A composite business process uses multiple trading mechanisms, such as requests for quotes (RFQs), auctions and contracts, or repeat passes through a single trading mechanism, over the life cycle of a single business object. For example, the results of an RFQ may need to be converted to a contract before the transaction is complete, or an auction may be performed in multiple stages with the first stage identifying serious bidders who will be involved in any subsequent stages.
While the individual business processes within a composite business process are typically well defined, there is currently no effective mechanism for efficiently integrating the individual business processes within a larger composite business process. In addition, there is currently no automated way of converting and moving a business object from one trading mechanism type to another.
A number of techniques have been proposed or suggested for integrating individual business processes within a larger composite business process. For example, collaborative supply chain management approaches included, for example, in the WebSphere Business Integrator from IBM Corp., and event-driven process chain (EPC) systems, such as those developed by IDS Scheer AG of Germany, provide flexibility in creating dynamic flows of business objects. These approaches, however, do not integrate existing stand-alone business processes to create a single fixed sequence composite business process in a structured way.
Likewise, systems that are designed to support the specific needs of a complex business process do not provide sufficient flexibility and an efficient use of system resources. Specifically, any variation to an individual component business process within a larger composite business process forces the replication of the entire composite business process, and a duplication of all of the resources that are required to manage the composite business process.
A need therefore exists for a simple and flexible mechanism for connecting established business processes together, without sacrificing system resources or the needs of businesses to maintain an established process. Yet another need exists for creating and managing composite business processes that allows existing shared business processes to remain independent, yet be easily connected together to address the needs of the business.
Generally, a method and apparatus are disclosed for managing composite business processes that include multiple trading mechanisms, such as requests for quotes (RFQs), auctions and contracts, or repeat passes through a single trading mechanism. The independence of the individual business processes that manage each trading mechanism is maintained, while each individual business process can be connected to other business processes to form a composite business process. According to one aspect of the invention, each individual business process that may be followed by another business process to form a composite process must have at least one state labeled as a conversion state with a conversion transition to another business process.
A conversion transition spans the gap between an end state of one business process and the start state of another subsequent business process. Thus, the end state of a business process may be designated as a conversion state when another business process may follow it. When a conversion state is entered by an object, a determination is made as to whether the object is being managed by a composite flow, and if so, determine what business process to use next. If the next business process to be executed is another pass through the same business process, the owner of the business object will be given the option of bypassing all subsequent rounds. If there is no desire or need to go through another round of the business process this method can move the object directly into the next business process in the sequence.
Conversion transitions are similar to other transitions with events, guards and actions. In addition to performing conventional transitioning functions, the conversion transitions of the present invention also execute any necessary steps to create a new object of the type required by the next business process in the composite process. This action copies all of the relevant data that must be carried forward from the previous object record, such as the composite sequence and index.
A more complete understanding of the present invention, as well as further features and advantages of the present invention, will be obtained by reference to the following detailed description and drawings.
The present invention provides a state machine-based business process that creates and manages composite business processes that include multiple trading mechanisms, such as requests for quotes (RFQs), auctions and contracts, or repeat passes through a single trading mechanism. As used herein, the repetition of a single business process sequentially is referred to as a multi-round process and the combination of different business processes in a sequence is referred to as a multi-stage process. Overall, a combination of multiple stand-alone business processes, whether multi-round or multi-stage, will be referred to as a composite flow or composite business process. For example, one auction process followed by another “round” or “pass” of the same auction process is an example of a multi-round process. On the other hand, a first auction followed by another auction with dissimilar rules is not a multi-round process, but rather a multi-stage process. Likewise, an RFQ followed by a contract is an example of a multi-stage process. Thus, a multi-round process refers to a sequence in which the same process is used multiple times, and though, for example, auction parameters may change, the rules within the process are the same.
Business processes can be represented using a state machine. State machines provide a way to control the set of events and actions that may be performed throughout the life cycle of a business object. The Unified Modeling Language (UML) provides a standardized syntax for describing state machines.
For a more detailed discussion of techniques for managing business processes using a state machine, see, for example, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/818,719, filed Mar. 27, 2001, entitled “E-Market Architecture for Supporting Multiple Roles and Reconfigurable Business Processes,” August-Wilhelm Scheer, Aris—Business Process Modeling, Springer Verlag, 1999 or Peter Muth et al., Enterprise-Wide Workflow Management Based on State and Activity Charts, in A. Dogac, L. Kalinichenko, T. Ozsu, A. Sheth (Editors), Workflow Management Systems and Interoperability, Springer Verlag, 1998, each incorporated by reference herein.
When a transaction is part of a composite business process and requires more than a single pass through a single trading mechanism, the choices may be more complex. As shown in
Thus, according to one feature of the present invention, each individual business process 210-i, which may have another business process 210-j follow it, must have at least one state labeled as a conversion state. When a conversion state is entered by an object, the business process manager (that manages the flow of the state machine) will determine whether the object is being managed by a composite flow, and if so, determine what business process to use next.
If the next business process 210-i to be executed is another pass through the same business process 210-i (operating within a multi-round sequence), the owner of the business object will be given the option of bypassing all subsequent rounds. If there is no desire or need to go through another round of the business process 210-i, this method can move the object directly into the next business process 210-i+1 in the sequence. For example, if the composite business process is “auction-auction-contract,” then after the first auction process, the owner can choose to go through the second auction or bypass the second auction and go directly to the contract process. This gives the owner not only the ability to link the processes together, but also, in this implementation, to bypass unnecessary passes of the same process. This can be useful if after the first pass through the auction process there is only one candidate buyer, so further rounds of the same auction are unnecessary.
A composite flow may be defined at several different points. The first option is to create the composite flow when the business processes themselves are created, thus defining a composite flow as one choice among the processes available to the user when creating an object. A composite flow may also be defined at the time that the business object is created, or the system may allow the object owner to establish the sequence of the business process one step at a time as each stage in the business process completes, in a similar manner to the capability provided by the ADocs and EPC systems.
One exemplary method of recording the sequence of a predefined composite business flow is to use a database table to save the order of the business processes within the composite flow, as shown in
In the example shown in
Field 465 indicates the current state of an object within the current business process. Field 470 stores a string identifying the sequence of business process identifiers for an object. At the time that an object is created, if a composite flow is selected or created for that object, then the sequence of business process identifiers for that object can be saved as a string in field 470. In this manner, potential problems associated with someone changing the predefined composite flow sequence are avoided while an object is partially through the composite flow. The composite flow for an object cannot be altered after the object has been created. An index is stored in field 475 with object data to indicate the current stage of an object within the overall flow.
As each conversion state is reached, the FlowStages string is checked to determine the next flow, and if appropriate, the user is given a chance to bypass further rounds of the same business process. A conversion transition is then traversed to convert the object for the next business process, and the CurrStageIndex is updated to reflect the appropriate stage within the composite business process.
In the example of
Conversion transitions are much like any other transitions with events, guards and actions, as discussed above in conjunction with
In addition to performing conventional transitioning functions, the conversion transitions of the present invention must also execute any necessary steps to create a new object of the type required by the next business process in the composite process. This action copies all of the relevant data that must be carried forward from the previous object record, such as the composite sequence and index.
Among other benefits, the composite business process management techniques of the present invention provide an automated way of converting and moving a business object from one trading mechanism type to another (avoiding any manual copying by the user). This, by itself, is a significant improvement over what is currently available.
Memory 640 will configure the processor 630 to implement the methods, steps, and functions disclosed herein. The memory 640 could be distributed or local and the processor 630 could be distributed or singular. The memory 640 could be implemented as an electrical, magnetic or optical memory, or any combination of these or other types of storage devices. The term “memory” should be construed broadly enough to encompass any information able to be read from or written to an address in the addressable space accessed by processor 630. With this definition, information on a network 610 is still within memory 640 of the web server 620 because the processor 630 can retrieve the information from the network 610.
As is known in the art, the methods and apparatus discussed herein may be distributed as an article of manufacture that itself comprises a computer readable medium having computer readable code means embodied thereon. The computer readable program code means is operable, in conjunction with a computer system, to carry out all or some of the steps to perform the methods or create the apparatuses discussed herein. The computer readable medium may be a recordable medium (e.g., floppy disks, hard drives, compact disks, or memory cards) or may be a transmission medium (e.g., a network comprising fiber-optics, the world-wide web, cables, or a wireless channel using time-division multiple access, code-division multiple access, or other radio-frequency channel). Any medium known or developed that can store information suitable for use with a computer system may be used. The computer-readable code means is any mechanism for allowing a computer to read instructions and data, such as magnetic variations on a magnetic media or height variations on the surface of a compact disk.
It is to be understood that the embodiments and variations shown and described herein are merely illustrative of the principles of this invention and that various modifications may be implemented by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.
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|U.S. Classification||705/1.1, 705/37, 705/80, 705/31, 705/26.3, 705/7.27|
|International Classification||G06Q50/18, G06Q40/00, G06Q30/08, G06Q10/06, G06F17/30|
|Cooperative Classification||G06Q40/04, G06Q30/08, G06Q10/06, G06Q50/188, G06Q10/0633, G06Q40/123, G06Q40/00|
|European Classification||G06Q30/08, G06Q10/06, G06Q10/0633, G06Q50/188, G06Q40/04, G06Q40/00, G06Q40/103|
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Owner name: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, NEW Y
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